So for anyone actually reading this, you should know that this is just an excerpt from a much larger story. You will have no idea whatsoever about what is happening... sorry!

I do not own Itachi, Kisame, the Akatsuki or anything in Naruto, just Asaya and Tsuta.

"So have you read it?" Spoke the voice of a man.

"Your book? Yeah." A young woman replied, slightly startled. Quietly sitting with her legs dangling over the edge of the porch, she took a sip of tea.

He always surprised her with his visits. They were never the same time or place, never scheduled beforehand. Yet she was slowly becoming accustomed to the irregularity.

She glanced out at the fireflies, just beginning to dim down for the night, and inhaled deeply, the tender warmth flowed between her lungs. Nothing was more soothing than the air of midsummer nights. She paused momentarily and closed her eyes as she listened to the chirping crickets.

"Asaya," He impatiently reminded her of the conversation at hand.

"Yeah, yeah, Itachi, I know." She softly replied.


"I liked it. But a better question; what are you doing here?"

He tossed two sealed scrolls on the floor beside her. "You have been asked by Leader to open them." She drew her legs under her as she turned around to look at him. The two cylindrical, green and red objects lay before her. Reaching out an inquisitive hand, she took hold of the two items bestowed upon her. They were from Kirigakure, but their contents and significance was unknown. "No, I have been told."

He didn't have the time or patience to dispute the matter with her, so he simply reverted to their previous topic. "When did you finish it?"

"The book again? Just this morning actually." She stood up with her teacup and newly acquired scrolls. Walking back to the kitchen, she motioned her head in a signal for him to follow. "It wasn't too long, so I actually finished reading one of your books on time!" Asaya playfully turned her head to smile at Itachi, but it quickly disappeared when she saw the look on his face. Her eyes reverted to the floor, slightly ashamed of her actions. "So where is the fish-man?"

She was referring to Kisame, of course. They didn't much care for each other. "Probably sleeping on your living room couch. Now Asaya, the book." Again, he prompted her.

"Does he have to do that? Every time you two are over all he ever does is eat my food and bum out on the couch." Entering the kitchen, she immediately went to the cupboard adjacent to the fridge and opened it to reveal an immeasurable hoard of tea. "What kind?"

Itachi sighed. Clearly, he wasn't getting anywhere. "Black"

"Cream and sugar?"

"Whatever you did last time."

Asaya discreetly smiled to herself. The last cup of tea she made for him included about two tablespoons of sweet cream, like always. Itachi knew, he just didn't want to admit it out loud.

Asaya exchanged the two scrolls for a kettle from nearby cabinet and took it to the sink where she placed it under the tap. While it was running, she lit the smallest burner on the stove, and then ran back to the sink to turn off the faucet before the water overflowed. Filled kettle in hand, she went back to the stove and placed it center on the burner. "It should be boiling in about five to ten minutes."

Itachi took off his cloak and draped it over the back of his chair, then sat perpendicular to her across the table. He gestured an arm, "Sit."

Asaya grabbed the seat across from him and sat down with a slight smile. "So what was it you wanted to talk about?"

"The book."

"Right, so-"

The kitchen door slammed open, causing both parties to turn their heads. "What the hell?" Exclaimed the intruder.

Itachi instantly recognized the voice and what it meant. If he were the sort of man, he would have rolled his eyes.

Between the doorframes stood a boy of about fourteen years, his right arm extended to point down the hallway in a distressed motion. Clothed only in a baggy t-shirt and boxers, his hair, which was of an ear length dark brown color, looked like it had been hit with a nuclear bomb. "That thing can't have been here more than ten minutes and it's already snoring on the couch! And you," he raised his other hand to point at Itachi, "What the hell are you both back for?"

"Tsuta!" Asaya scolded, then muttered to herself, "Seems you found fish-man before I did…"

Tsuta didn't take his eyes off of Itachi. "You could at least give us a little warning before you stop by in the dead of night, huh? Send a messenger crow or something."

Before Itachi could reply, Asaya spoke "Tsuta, you know that they're welcome here any time, get over it."

"So! I live here more of the year then you do, I should be the one setting the standards!" It was true. Asaya only lived in the house during the summer, as part of a recurring border patrol duty. Tsuta, however, lived there almost all year round, and to be fair he was the one who would inherit the place one day. But there were bigger forces in place…

"It's not just my rules, you know that."

Tsuta was about to retaliate but held his tongue. He knew better, they'd had this argument many times. He lowered his arms and huffed, "Fine, but just because the big kahuna in the municipality of mud says so, doesn't mean I gotta be happy about it."

"Don't call your grandfather that!" Asaya scolded again. "It's ten-thirty at night; I'm not in the mood for one of your rants."

"Ten-thirty isn't that late, you're usually up till two anyway. And you have to get up again at five to patrol."

Asaya raised a hand to her forehead and sighed; though half her current company was extremely welcome, she felt as though the other could use a slap in the face.

"Asaya, the kettle," Itachi finally spoke. He had been the only one to hear the beginnings of what would soon be an obnoxious whistle.

Asaya twisted her head to look at him. "Huh? Oh, right…"

"You making tea? Can I have some?" Tsuta grabbed an open chair next to Asaya and sat down. He folded his arms on the table and leaned forward. "What do you have new?"

"Nothing," Unusual, since Asaya frequently bought ant tried new brands and styles of the beverage. "Most of the tins in the cupboard are empty." Sadly, Asaya was the kind of person who kept the empty tins, thinking she would later use them for some sort of recycled function, like storing spare change or miscellaneous beauty supplies. A few of the nicer ones were used in such a manor, and were displayed on her vanity; however, despite all her good intentions, she never collected the necessary amount of change or had much in the way of make-up, so most tins were discarded sometime later.

The kettle erupted into a full whistle. Everyone in the room visibly winced as Asaya jumped up from her chair and over to the stove, where she seized the kettle and turned off the burner. As the harsh whistle simmered down, Asaya readied three teacups from another nearby shelf, and paused to again ask "What kind does everyone want?"

Tsuta leaned back in his chair and rested his arms behind his head. "Mmmm… Green tea, and can you decaffeinate it for me? And no honey either, I'm gonna go back to bed soon."

"Sure thing." Asaya turned her head to look behind her, "Itachi? You wanted black tea right?"

"Yes, and plain." Itachi had changed his mind.

Asaya quietly mused to herself. Both of them knew he hated the bitter taste of plain black tea, which was why he drank it with a good addition of sweet cream. However, with the new addition to their company, Itachi felt he would do without any sweetener in an effort to appear more masculine. He wouldn't give Tsuta the chance to ridicule him. After all, men were men.

"So, you never answered my question. What are you doing back this time?" Tsuta asked Itachi. Although as far as Itachi was concerned, pestered was a much more fitting adjective.

"He dropped off two sealed scrolls for me to open, nothing special." Asaya interjected again, pointing to the evidence she left on the kitchen counter. She tried very hard to minimize any and all direct contact between Tsuta and Itachi. Tsuta hated Itachi. And after all the Akatsuki had put him and Asaya through, it was more than understandable. For the boy to put up with the unexpected visits and arrangements the way he did took a maturity well beyond his years. But Tsuta was still a teenager, and therefore he couldn't help but try and start conflicts.

"Ya know, I think he's a big boy and can answer for himself. Isn't that right, Itachi?" Tsuta persisted.

Asaya stared pensively at the three cups of tea she had finished pouring; they were entering dangerous territory…

Itachi looked directly into the boy's gaze, meeting his challenge. Sharangan triggered to display his strength, he sat slightly reclined with sloped shoulders to show he wasn't threatened. Personally, Itachi felt no true hatred towards the boy. To him the child was just another of Akatsuki's many victims. But minor hostility and a great distaste were something different. The boy had a talent for pinching his nerves: the way he sat cocked back in his chair, the raised eyebrow, and the smug smile twitching on the edge of his lips. Daring Yeah, I'm taunting you, what are you going to do about it? And on one or two occasions it had invoked a great conflict, much to Asaya's fear. Yet as she had stated earlier, it was getting late and he was not in the mood to discipline the boy.

"Asaya is correct. Kisame and I are here to have the two scrolls unsealed. We should be gone by morning, provided they do not need to be deciphered."

The dynamics surrounding the relationship between Itachi and Tsuta had undergone change. Where Tsuta had at one time need fear for his life, events had since conspired to prevent Itachi from actually killing the teenager. A fact that Tsuta loved nothing more than to exploit. Yet that didn't mean Itachi couldn't assault the brat. Bodily harm and death were different, a saving grace used in severe cases. As long as Itachi wasn't further aggravated, there wouldn't be a problem.

"Fair enough, just as long as I don't have to deal with Homo-Selachimorpha on the couch and it doesn't eat all the food I'll be good."

Asaya breathed a sigh of relief. Tsuta had chosen not to carry on with his challenge. She walked back to the table with all three cups of tea, passed them out, and sat on the edge of the table between Itachi and Tsuta. "Those scrolls shouldn't need deciphering, unless you want me to tell you how they were cataloged into Kiri's record system. The seals are going to be a bitch to open, but they aren't any form of elevated importance. I'm assuming they're mission statements from a year or two ago. Who commissioned you retrieve them?"

"The Daimyo of Shimo, to my knowledge. They probably detail missions that occurred internationally, and presumably with controversial information, but I was only given orders to retrieve and bring them to you. If you want to know their contents you can look for yourself." Itachi took a sip of his tea, trying very hard not to show any repulsion to the acidic drink.

"Typical…" Asaya leaned her elbow on the table, cradling her face in her hand. Every nation had something against the others. She took a sip of tea. She was drinking black tea as well, mostly for the higher caffeine content she would need to keep her awake all night. Although unlike Itachi, she loved the thick taste of it plain, the darker the better.

Tsuta yawned. "Well whatever, I'm going back to bed." He sat up from his chair and pushed it back in, then grabbed his cup and walked out the door saying, "Goodnight. Hopefully this house's population will have decreased by fifty percent by the time I wake up!"

"Night Tsuta!" Asaya called after him.

Itachi remained silent, but couldn't deny his relief. Tsuta had kept him from his desire for too long…

"Asaya, come here." Itachi demanded.

"Why? I'm already sitting right next to you." Her eyebrow arched, questioning his motives. She had an idea of what he really wanted.

"Just do it"

She obeyed and stood up from her chair to stand next to him. "And?"

He held out his teacup to her, "Fix it."

"Oh, bullshit!" Asaya narrowed her eyes at him, only half serious. Even so, she took the cup back over to the refrigerator to add some cream, rolling her eyes as she went. Itachi rested a hand on the table as he watched her fuss. No matter how much she protested she would always do as he asked. It was one of her amusing traits and he would often find ways to manipulate her just to watch.

As she opened and poured the small container of cream, Itachi thought he heard minor obscenities depart through her mouth, predominately the word 'jackass,' but he couldn't hear clearly enough to tell. Returning to him from her little assignment, she stiffly held out the cup to him. "Here."

Itachi turned his body to face her. Looking her in the eyes, he took the cup from her small hand and brought it to his lips to drink. Asaya had only put in half the amount of cream she usually did, but it was potable. "Acceptable."

Shrugging, Asaya made to sit back down, but a stray hand around her wrist stopped her. Itachi pulled her down into his lap, where she straddled him. "I don't appreciate your sense of humor." Asaya smiled and draped her arms around his shoulders. She knew that this was what he wanted. They both did. "So?"

Itachi encircled an arm around the small of her back, pressing her into him. He nestled his face into her neck where he kissed her collar bone. "So you are going to make it up to me"

"And how is that?" Asaya rested her chin on the top of his head, softly sighing in the comfort of his arms.

"The book."

"You're really persistent about this one, aren't you?" Asaya tried to lean away, but Itachi moved his hand up her back, effectively keeping her in place. "And you are persistent about withholding your answer." He began to suckle on her neck, for which he was rewarded with a small moan. Oh, to hear her again…

Asaya had missed him, more than she could ever say, but she could never tell him. He wouldn't want to hear anyway…

The hand that had been resting on the kitchen table moved to grasp around her upper thigh. Moving his lips up her neck, Itachi met hers in a series of needy kisses. She moaned a little louder into his mouth, and arched her back into him, trying so hard to get closer. The hand that had held her firmly to him pulled down a strap of her tank top, leaving it to rest around her abdomen, and she hastily helped pull down the second one. The same hand snuck around to fiddle with the clasp of her bra, which was no struggle to unhook. Once undone, he eagerly removed the inhibiting piece of clothing, and discarded it on the floor beside them. Her breasts were finally free from confinement and exposed to him. A thought Itachi easily entertained. Lacing her fingers into his hair, Asaya removed his ex-leaf hitai-ate, dropping it on the floor with a minute clang.

Their breathing had become more fervent almost immediately, their kisses more demanding. Asaya felt a slight sting on her left hip. Itachi's hand, which had been grasping her thigh, maneuvered around her shorts and was now hooked under the panty line over her hip, his nails lightly digging into her flesh. His other hand, however, finally claimed his prize as it groped and kneaded her soft breast. The feel of her supple skin in his hands was ecstasy, and after he had been craving her for so long…

Asaya was about to reach for Itachi's belt when a loud groan echoed from down the hall. They pulled away from each other. "It's Kisame, get dressed quickly." Itachi hadn't need tell her, she had already pulled up her tank top. Standing up from his lap, she straightened out her clothing. "Where is my…? Oh…"

Itachi held out her bra, as he had already retied his hitai-ate. "Hide it, quickly."

Asaya hastily grabbed it from him. Now where to hide it? Quickly scanning the room, she found that there weren't many good choices, but there was one… She scrambled over to the countertop. Opening a lower cabinet- the one she retrieved the kettle from- she threw the article of clothing in, slammed the door shut, then turned back to face Itachi. Though he had no true expression on his face, he arched an eyebrow at her.

Kisame rounded the doorframe with a loud yawn. Looking at the table, he saw Itachi sitting with two cups of tea before of him. Two? His eyes shot around the room. Asaya was leaning on the counter next to the fridge, the two scrolls behind her. The Shark's drowsy frame of mind took a minute to comprehend the situation. "So you've already explained our little mission. Good." He spoke to Itachi, but his eyes remained fixed on Asaya.

Itachi didn't answer, and instead kept his gaze firmly positioned on Kisame, jaw clenched

Asaya stood ridged, her hands grasped firmly over the edge of the countertop. Her stare was transfixed on an adjacent spot on the floor, refusing to look up.

"Ah, well… what is there to eat in this place?" Switching his concentration back to food, Kisame made his way over to the fridge. It had been a few days since he had last had any substantial meal, as he and Itachi had needed to travel from Kirigakure in as little time as possible. Grabbing the handle, he looked again at Asaya. He noticed her breathing was slow and shallow, a sign that she was afraid. Her hands gripped the counter with such force her tendons could be seen swelling through the white of her skin. Kisame smirked; the power he seemed to have over this woman was engrossing. His six-foot three body towered above her tiny stature, gills visibly squirming as he reveled in the satisfaction of his influence on the young woman.

Itachi's teeth began to grind as he saw the inner workings of Kisame's mind reflect in his eyes.

"Kisame, we will be departing by morning, so eat now and rest. We have no time to waist on fatigue tomorrow" Itachi's voice was a half step lower then he meant it to be.

"I see." Refocusing on the fridge again, Kisame examined its contents. To his surprise and displeasure, there were scarce contents. A stray cabbage here, a half gallon of milk there. Upon further inspection though, there was a small helping of raw ground beef in a top drawer. With a small huff, he took it and turned to go back the way he came, leaving the fridge door open.

After his footsteps could no longer be heard down the hall, Asaya let out a heavy breath of relief. Itachi noticed that after she released her hands from their death grip on the counter, her body began visibly shuddering. "I had been hoping… to avoid…" Grey eyes shifted erratically between floorboards, heart beating out of her chest. Her trembling hands slowly stroked each other, but she couldn't feel them, or any part of her body. That man, the way he haunted her, always there in the back of her mind. The way he looked at her with his yellow eyes. The way she always felt naked in his presence. The way he made her feel so dirty, so soiled and ruined. Her skin crawled and her body ached as she remembered… She shouldn't have made tea for her and Itachi. She should have taken the scrolls and gone straight to work on them. She should have…

"It is getting late, Asaya." Itachi finally broke the silence. He was looking at the doorway Kisame had entered and exited from. "If you plan on finishing those by morning, which I'm hoping you are, you should get started soon." He couldn't bring himself to look at her as he said the words.

Standing up from his chair, he grabbed both of their teacups and made his way over to close the fridge door, then to the sink and stood next to Asaya. "Here," he held out her cup to her. "You'll need this."

Asaya carefully took it in both hands, and held it very close to her chest. The warmth from the cup dispersed into her cold hands, easing the ache. "Thank you." She muttered softly.

There was a splash in the sink as Itachi dumped his tea. Turning on the faucet, he rinsed out the cup and set it on the drying rack. "Be sure to get some sleep. I'll see you again at five." Out of the corner of his eye, Itachi tried to catch a glimpse of Asaya's face, but she was fixated on her drink, lending him only to look at her profile, which was mostly obscured by her hair. A small breath was exhaled from between his lips as he turned around and walked out the door, disappearing down the hall.

"Good night…" Asaya diminutively called to him, but he didn't hear. Or just didn't answer.

So that was it? That was his way of consoling her? She knew he wasn't the man who could ease a crying woman. His history and vocation kept him from ever showing her compassion. And she understood him well enough to know that. But just this once couldn't he have held her? In a loud crash the teacup slipped from her quivering hands and shattered on the floor. He could have said something, anything! It wasn't like anyone was watching. Hands grabbed her temples and she slowly sunk to the floor. Leaning back against the cabinet door, she brought her knees to her chest. Did he care about how she felt, having just been faced with that nightmare? Her breath was heavy and unstable as tears began to well in her eyes.

Asaya's mind raced faster than she could comprehend. Images of what had happened, what could have, and what she should have done flooded her mind. She had been too weak. "I should have known… I should have…" Her tears now spilled over and poured down her cheeks, the salty liquid stinging her nose and lips. A throb pulsed through her heart and lungs. She wanted to scream, loud enough to burst her own ears, but was unable to make a sound. The only thing she could hear was her own strained and gasping breath.

"Hay, is everything ok? Oh…" Tsuta stood at the doorway. He had heard the crash from his room, located just above and to the right of the kitchen. Having grown up around ninjas, he decided that, contrary to popular belief, the bumps heard in the night were well worth investigating, though usually there was no immediate danger. At worst he thought he would encounter an over-evolved shark, but this…

Crying, Asaya leaned against a cabinet next to the fridge, broken pieces of porcelain scattered around her trembling figure. She sat with her hands tangled in her hair, legs to her chest and toes curled in, her face was buried in her knees. In a heartbeat he realized what had happened. He rushed over to her, where he knelt down beside her and reached to pull one of her hands away from hiding her face. "What happened? What did he do!" Tsuta knew better than to yell, and instead spoke in a harsh whisper.

After a few strangled breaths, Asaya replied, "No-nothing… it's no-" She tried to pull her hand back.

"That's not true. Tell me, please… " Tsuta wouldn't let go.

"I swear… I-it's nothing!" She gave up struggling and Tsuta successfully pulled her hand from hiding her face. Her head lurched back from between her knees and Tsuta could now see her swollen eyes.

"Asaya, please…"

Her breathing slowed and deepened, but still remained shaky and broken. She was calming down. "H-he was just there and… I… I couldn't…" She whispered between breaths.

Tsuta relaxed his muscles. He believed her. But he should never have left her alone with Itachi, knowing Kisame was in the house. Maybe the Akatsuki hadn't done anything this time, but that didn't mean they wouldn't ever again. "Then what's got you crying, huh? You're ok, everything's ok, I promise." He softly cooed to her. Reaching his arms out, she leaned into him as he held her.

"He didn't do anything… He did nothing…" Asaya whispered again, eyes unable to focus.

Tsuta stroked the back of her head gently. "I know, I know…"

From a ways down the hall, Itachi had heard everything. He stood with his arms crossed, leaning against the wall. After he had left Asaya in the kitchen, he had stayed just around the corner, keeping his ears open to hear her. What was he supposed to do? Let her cry in his arms? She knew better than to expect that from him.

Itachi let in a deep breath. She was a stronger woman than that. She was a more than talented kunoichi, capable of putting up a decent fight to anyone. He had personally witnessed her bold personality stand up to himself and the other Akatsuki. She knew better than to let that incident destroy her, he made sure of it. But then why now weep? Exhaling, Itachi understood exactly why she was crying. Even though one had overcome trauma, it didn't necessarily mean they would never be troubled by it. He knew that, more than he would like to admit.

It was fortunate that Tsuta came down when he did. If he had heard her for a moment longer… No, because he, as Asaya had just said, 'did nothing.' He had made the agreement with himself that he would always have to do so. But then why did his hand want so much to reach back for her…

Never mind, Itachi told himself, throwing the shameful thought aside. Pushing himself off the wall, he made his way up the stairs. He would need a full night's rest. The long travel from Kirigakure had taken its toll on him. Besides, he would need to wake up early.

After a few moments more, Asaya had stopped. She wiped her eyes clean. "You better now?" Tsuta asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine." She looked around her at the broken pieces of what was once a teacup. The tea that it had once held was mixed with the debris in puddle on the floor. "I guess I should clean this up, huh?"

"Here, let me help." Tsuta reached out a hand to try and pick up a shard.

"Don't, you'll cut yourself. Just get a towel so I can wipe it up." Asaya bid him. Normally, she would have let him help her, but she couldn't handle another disaster happening tonight.

Tsuta did as she asked and stood up to get a towel from the countertop. There was one draped on the handle of the oven. As he walked over to retrieve it, Asaya began collecting the pieces of porcelain into a small pile. "I thought you said you were going to bed" She said with a small sniffle. "You'll need your sleep or you can't get any work done tomorrow."

Seizing the towel from the stove, Tsuta realized that Asaya was trying to focus on anything other than herself. "Yeah, well it's not like I have a deadline to get it done. I'm here all the time, you know." They were referring to the renovating and cleaning that needed to be done in the house.

The place had been a long time hide out and post for Iwa's ninja. Located on the base of the mountains bordering the lands of Earth and Grass, it was hidden just within the boundary of a dense forest and far away from any sort of civilization, making it a prime location for the Akatsuki to contact Asaya, which was why she was stationed there for her 'border patrol' duty. Although practical, Asaya and Tsuta were the only ones to have used it since the war with Konoha, so the interior looked a little more than neglected.

Returning to her, Tsuta held out the newly acquired towel."Thanks," Asaya took it from him, and made to dry the wet floor. After all the spilt tea had been soaked up, she placed all the shards of teacup in the towel and stood up. Silently, Tsuta watched her walk over to the trash can and throw everything in, including the towel. Oh well, it was more of a rag anyway.

Closing the lid, Asaya spoke "I guess I should get to work on those scrolls shouldn't I?" She strode over to the counter where she two scrolls sat, unaffected by the recent happenings. It would be a good idea to take Itachi's advice. "Goodnight." She picked them up and departed through the door, turning in the direction of the study.

"Goodnight" Tsuta called back to her. Yeah, a goodnight indeed.

It was a little after four in the morning when Asaya finished unsealing the scrolls. Had she not been so tired when she started, they would have been opened much sooner.

Leaning back from the desk, Asaya let her arms hang loosely at her side. The study was a small room, located on the east half of the building, directly underneath her room. In fact, there was a hidden door behind her that led to an enclosure with a ladder that she commonly used to travel between her room and the study. Though the true virtue of the room was the one large window through which she had a wonderful view of the sunrise, should she ever be there at the right time. It was about an hour or so too early, unfortunately.

Standing up, Asaya stretched out her arms and back. Sitting in one position for too long never felt good, no matter how comfy the cushion. A gentle breeze flowed through the open window, giving a refreshing chill to the back of her neck, while she closed her eyes to listen to the leaves sway in the wind. Would it matter if she went back to bed? She had to patrol again at five, so at most she would get a half hour nap. She'd even patrol now if it wasn't so dark out.

A sudden yawn erupted from her lips. Her eyes felt small and stiff. Maybe a small nap wouldn't be so bad. Turing towards the hidden door, she pushed her hand into the wall and it clicked open. Placing her hands and feet securely on the ladder, she climbed. It wasn't a long distance before she reached the top and pushed the floorboard out of place. Heaving herself halfway up, she noticed an intruder in the room. Peacefully sleeping on her futon was a black haired man, roughly 178 centimeters tall.

Ugh. Though he was welcome to sleep there, Asaya was not in the mood to deal with him right now. She slid the floorboard back into place as she climbed back down and made for the front door. Right now was a perfectly good time to do her patrol.

Slipping on her shoes, she opened the front door with a loud screech. The frame that held the door was old and corroded. She and Tsuta would have to fix it when they got the chance. The door closed behind her, again with a loud screech.

Facing towards the trees, Asaya set out for her morning patrol.

Itachi awoke to the sound of two screeches coming from outside the room, irritatingly disturbing his sleep. From all the way in the top floor of Asaya's room, the noise had been almost muffled, but his ears were sharp enough to catch it. It was the sound of Asaya leaving her morning patrol duty.

Itachi lay shirtless in the bed. The soft fabric of Asaya's sheets was draped arbitrarily over the low of his hips. Rolling onto his back, he looked out the window. It was much too dark outside to be the regular time she patrolled. She must have decided she didn't want to be in the house. Or perhaps she decided she didn't want to come to bed…

No matter, he would meet her in an hour or so when the light of the sun was more apparent, like he had promised. Closing his eyes, Itachi drifted back to sleep.

Halfway home from her expedition, Asaya was more than exhausted. She should have taken that extra half hour of nap.

Oh god how monotonous and boring the damn patrol had become. Every day she made two trips around the immediate area, one before sunrise and one just after sunset. Following the same trails and pathways into the forest and along the grassy fields that Iwa shared on its border with Kusa. She was supposed to make a third trip midday, but for sake of her sanity she skipped out on it. It wasn't like anything ever happened in her little piece of nowhere. No S-class criminals would ever have any business with her.

The scenery that enveloped her was actually quite beautiful, and when Asaya had first begun her duty she had thought the views exquisite. However the repetition of her weeks of work had ruined most of the enchantment.

The path Asaya walked along was the border between Iwa and Kusa; a thin but well worn road where the trees and grass parted. Perhaps it was for sake of the boundary between the two countries, that no sapling ever dared sprout beyond the limit of said road. The sky had begun to lighten its shade of blue, and the beginnings of a soft purple hue could be seen over the fields to the east. Turning her body to face the horizon, Asaya rubbed her tired eyes. The view really was beautiful. Those fleeting moments between night and day were certainly the only times in life worth being awake for. Too bad she was horribly sleep deprived.

Asaya looked too awful to enjoy the pleasantries of nature. Sometime during the night she had put her hair in a messy bun to keep the uncomfortable humidity from building up behind her neck, which did anyway despite her efforts. Her cheeks were stained with a red fluster and a sweaty sheen coated her face and shoulders. The tank top she wore was awkwardly stretched around her torso, its neckline skewed to one side of her chest. Dark circles encompassed her eyes, amplified by a puffy squint.

"You should have taken a nap."

Asaya smiled. She had been too tired to hear him creep up behind her. "I wanted to, but someone was hoarding the bed from me."

"Then perhaps next time you should make room for yourself, you seem to have no problem doing so in any other circumstance."

Blushing, Asaya turned around. Itachi stood in front of her, uncloaked and no more than an inch or so away. She looked up at him, and his solemn eyes gave no hint at the joke he had just put forth. Asaya, in her lethargic state, almost missed his rare display of humor, if a little mocking. Her blush deepened, "So what are you doing out here? I thought you had to leave ASAP."

"Kisame won't wake up until ten, if I'm at all lucky. Come, let us sit." He turned to walk back towards the tree line, where he picked a trunk and sat against it, one leg stretched out and the other bent close to his body. Asaya obediently followed. She sat beside him, but instead of stretching out she stationed herself cross legged.

"So you finished the book?"

Asaya sighed. This again? Was that really all he thought about? "Yes, I finished your book."

"And what did you think?"

Asaya took a moment to respond, "Well I liked it, but the author drove me mad. But his individual writing style is not the important part. What I am assuming you want to know is my personal thoughts on his philosophy, no?"

Itachi gave no answer so Asaya continued. "Well, I can't say I exactly agree with him." She paused again, formulating more of her answer. She pinched her eyebrows together. "The idea that a man is only his actions doesn't sit well with me. I think that a man is also his thoughts."

"Why, when it is only our actions that influence and manipulate the world around us. A murder is a murderer." Itachi argued back. "I suppose…" From the corner of her eye, Asaya glanced at a newly sprouted vine. It had just begun creeping up the ample girth of their tree's trunk. "But it is our motivation- our reasoning- upon which we judge the quality of our character. We -or our actions- are never good or evil just for principal of the thing itself. A man can have many reasons for killing another: money, an accident, pleasure, duty, revenge. And yes, they all lead to killing, but it is not for one to judge another without taking into consideration another's motives- reasons."

"Yet the consequence is still the same." Itachi replied, "A life is still lost, and there are those who will mourn for a death, and ultimately seek revenge."

"Not if we try to understand another's motivation and forgive." Asaya leaned her head on his shoulder.

Itachi thought in silence. Forgiveness? "Then you believe that we can overcome our actions, and forgive others in turn, no matter how great the crime?"

"Maybe not always forgiveness, but compassion and tolerance. That is what makes us human, don't you think? People are not intrinsically good or evil just because of one action, but instead always carry a limitless potential for both."

Itachi's eyes narrowed. "Even Kisame?"

A jolt of pain strike through her veins as she remembered. "…Please don't mention that…" Asaya cast her eyes into her lap, hands caressing each other's fingers. That was a low blow, and even Itachi was surprised he had said it. Through her silence he could feel the tension and unease radiating off her body. He shouldn't have referenced a part of her past that was so heinous. The comment was nothing but a petty and arrogant attempt at winning a trivial debate.

Must you always throw such knives at me? Asaya wondered. Couldn't she have one conversation with him were he did not say something unpleasant?

Looking out into the distance, Itachi could see the first yellow of sunrise beaming up from the horizon. A thin sheen of mist had gently layered itself over the infinite expanse of the grass fields before them, holding an unearthly glow from the light it emanated. The nesting birds had awoken from their slumber and began chirping.

After a long minute of awkward silence, Itachi decided it was time for a change. "How was unsealing the scrolls?"

Distracted, it took Asaya a minute to register he had said something. "Huh? Oh, not too bad. They were just the standard, low-level type seals you've brought before. I would have had time for that nap if I hadn't been so tired when I started on them. And I left them on my desk for you, in case you're wondering." Her eyes remained downcast. Again he was more inclined to switch subjects than acknowledge her. But this was nothing new of his behavior, and she knew she'd have to accept and grow accustomed to it. Sometimes though, the slow gnawing of her dejected frustration with him felt as though it was rotting away at too much of her being. It doesn't matter, she told herself.

They sat in still for a few moments more before Asaya decided she needed a change of position. Shifting over, she forcibly nestled herself between his legs, her back to his chest. "What do you think you're doing?" Itachi asked. He wasn't alarmed, but the shameless action was unusual for her.

"You owe me, and I'm tired." She stated. As she closed her eyes she grabbed his right arm and maneuvered it around her torso to where his hand rested on her hip. As she burrowed herself into place she clasped her own limbs around his, preventing him from escaping.

Itachi decided to yield to her; she could have her way, just this once. Lifting a hand to caress her cheek, he tucked a stray hair behind her ear, in which he softly whispered, "I can't be here when you wake up."

Asaya was already half lost to sleep, but the sensation of his breath on her ear and neck aroused her enough to hear him. "I know."

The sun had long since fully risen into the apex of the sky, and the shroud of mist which covered the grasslands had evaporated with the rising heat. Itachi held Asaya for a brief eternity before he felt that she was in a deep enough sleep to remove himself from under her. Gently, he rested her sleeping form beneath the shade of the tree. Had she been left in direct sunlight, her fair complexion would have burned.

Gazing at her figure one last time, Itachi muttered a brief word of departure and turned to head back towards the house. In due time, he would be back for her, undoubtedly with another assignment.

Through the small crack between navy curtains, a tiny beam of sunlight aimed itself directly into the face of a sleeping boy. Irritated by the intrusion of daylight into his slumber, Tsuta rolled over and covered his face with a pillow.

It was a moment later that Tsuta discovered that his efforts to get back to sleep were in vain. There was a new problem; the urge to relieve himself. Groaning in defeat, Tsuta flung the covers from his body. There was no sense in trying to sleep when nature decided otherwise. Tsuta dragged his feet as he walked down the hall, to the last door on the left where he entered.

A rather loud flush resonated from the bathroom as Tsuta concluded his business. He exited the bathroom feeling much relieved. Now he could shuffle himself back to bed and finish his much needed rest.

However, the clock on the hallway wall begged to differ. The time was 1:34pm, as boldly displayed on its face. The detestable thing hung itself right in front of Tsuta, to serendipitously ruin his plans he was sure.

Wait, hadn't Itachi said he and Kisame would be gone by early that morning? If so then they would be long gone by now, in which case he could safely go downstairs and make breakfast. Or really, a late lunch as it was far past morning.

The sound of Tsuta's feet reverberated throughout the house as he trampled the stairs beneath him. A stagnant air always loomed in the house whenever any of the Akatsuki 'visited,' and a breath of freshness flowed anew whenever they left. At the thought Tsuta's lips coiled upward. The absence of the criminals really did brighten the house back up. Sunlight shown through the windows and into the kitchen, cheerfully uninhibited by any form of overcast.

The only form of disturbance within the kitchen was the grumbling of Tsuta's stomach. Having missed breakfast and now being overdue for lunch, the boy was a little more than hungry. But what to eat? The instant ramen he usually made whenever Asaya hadn't prepared anything had been frequented enough to become stale.

Speaking of which, where was that girl anyway? Probably upstairs drooling in a deeper sleep than he had previously been, he guessed. Bottomless, quite possibly.

But anyway, back to food. If not ramen, then what else was there? Cereal was out of the question, as they had run out of milk a week ago, and he wasn't in the mood for something cold and fibrous. Something warm and full of protein was what he needed. And as he remembered, there were some ground beef leftovers in the fridge. As he opened the door he looked into the top drawer. "Oh, fuck no…" The drawer was empty. "That bastard…" Tsuta grumbled to himself. If only he had the means to punch Kisame in the face. Hard.

But seeing as there were no means by which to accomplish that longstanding goal, he might as well concentrate back on satisfying his empty stomach. On the door of the fridge was a full carton of half-dozen eggs. Perhaps scrambled eggs weren't too bad. After grabbing two from the shelf, he placed them on the countertop next to him. He knelt down to open the lower cabinet assigned to storing pots and pans. Reaching in a hand, he was surprised to pull out something made of cloth. Upon further examination Tsuta found the item to be shaped from two cotton half spheres and miscellaneous elastic straps. A bra.

"The fuck…?"


So does anyone have a guess at what book they were discussing?

And guess what today is? Happy birthday Itachi! (^^)

And thank you plastik cuffs! You are amazing, wonderful, fantastic, awesome, incredible, (insert made up word here), etc., etc.!